There’s not a more exciting day for a rookie than the day when they’re finally allowed to set out on their own. They gladly allow their training officers to nudge them from their nests, sending them out to meet the day, wide-eyed and anxious to save the world. Everything looks different to them that day. The sun is brighter. The sirens are louder. And cockiness is at its peak.
Sure, the recruits have been driving a patrol car for weeks, but nothing beats settling in behind the wheel of that same car for the first time without your FTO (field training officer). Last night was Ben Sherman’s time to leave the nest. And what a emotional first day he had—a missing child, an abusive father, and a battered woman who was the victim of an ex-boyfriend/psycho-stalker.
So how’d Ben do? We’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s deal with Lydia’s dream where she hears someone enter her house at night. She tells another member of the household to hang on to her pistol and get into the bathtub. Everyone understands why the young girl might need a pistol, but why the tub? Well, in days long gone by bathtubs were made of steel and then covered with porcelain, therefore the fixture could possibly provide some nice protection against gunfire. Don’t even think about that today. Many modern tubs are made from molded plastic, or fiberglass. However, some older homes, like Lydia’s, still have the older style, metal-based tubs.
Okay, moving on. Lydia grabs a pistol-grip shotgun from her gun safe (the safe was a nice touch), and heads toward the stairwell. Suddenly, a man steps around the corner on the floor below and she shoots him from a distance of twenty or twenty-five feet – ignore the fact that the guy she shot (remember, this was a dream) was her former partner. The wound in the guy’s chest looked like it was caused by a RPG (rocket propelled grenade). In a show that goes all out for realism, this was pretty disappointing.
A shotgun shell contains lots of tiny pellets, each about the size of a single bullet. When the shotgun is discharged, it propels each of those pellets forward, but they don’t stay together in a little clump. As they travel they get further apart. Sure, in a short distance of twenty or twenty-five feet they’d still be sort of close together, but they certainly wouldn’t rip a hole in a guy’s chest large enough to drive a Toyota Prius through, even if its accelerator was jammed to the floor. The wounds would more than likely result in a bunch of little holes in the victim, not one large Grand Canyon-like pit of mangled tissue.
As usual, the shift meeting was an accurate portrayal of an actual pre-shift muster, with officers receiving pertinent information and assignments. Chickie’s assignment for the day was to work the kit room (In some departments, this is the room where weapons and radios are stored and handed out. Some agencies also issue patrol cars from the kit room). Chickie immediately questioned the duty, and the sergeant quickly explained that she was no longer safe on the street, a statement she soon proves true when she’s re-assigned to ride with John Cooper.
Ben, John, and Chickie are seen heading to their patrol cars. Cooper tosses Ben the keys to his solo ride and tells him, “Be safe, and watch the hands.” Well, that advice is golden. A police officer should always, always, always watch a suspect’s hands. Chances are he won’t be holding a gun with his feet.
Ben answers a call where an attractive young woman complains about a stalker – her ex-boyfriend. Ben goes through the motions of filling out the proper forms to begin a paper trail on the guy. Well, the woman comes on to Ben a bit and he politely rejects the flirting, citing department rules about dating someone involved in a case. Good information here. Dating crooks and complainants can only lead to trouble down the road. Ben hands the woman his card and tells her to call 911 if the ex shows up again. He also tells her to call him if she senses danger.
Chickie and Cooper are behind a car when someone in that car tosses a bag of dope. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this sort of thing happen in real life. Why they toss it when a police car is traveling along behind them is a mystery to me. Chances are, the police officer is merely heading in the same direction and had no intention of stopping the car until the kilo of cocaine took flight. Anyway, during this high-risk traffic stop Chickie shows why she’s no longer safe on the street. She’s totally passive with the drug-throwing crooks. The woman Chickie’s attempting to arrest is not complying with Chickie’s wimpy commands. Cooper then reminds Chickie that cops should exhibit Command Presence, meaning there must be no mistaking who’s in charge. Give commands like you mean it! Those of you attending the Writers’ Police Academy this fall will have the opportunity to see exactly what this is all about. (By the way Southland fans, this event is open to everyone).
Meanwhile, Ben has moved on to searching for a missing child, a case he’s taken personally. In fact, he’d become quite obsessed with finding the little girl, which happens quite a bit in real life. Officers do take cases involving kids quite personal. Ben locates the girl after a massive search and all is well.
Back to Chickie and her woes. She spots a guy on the street with a gun. The officers stop and Chickie commands the man to stop, turn around, and place his hands in the air. Her commands are much better this time. While she’s doing this Cooper is standing to the side with his weapon drawn. Well, Chickie should have had her weapon out, too. If the guy had decided to fire there’s no way she could have drawn her pistol from its spot in the holster in time to save herself. The crook could have turned and grabbed her as a hostage before Cooper had time to react. Who knows? Now, once the guy had his hands over his head with fingers interlocked, then she should holster her weapon, while Cooper is covering her, and begin searching the thug.
Poor Chickie failed Searching For Weapons 101. She knew the guy had a gun and when she found it she stopped searching. BAD, BAD, BAD, move. It’s also a deadly move. Copper took over the search (using great procedure, by the way) and found a second weapon on the guy’s ankle. Had Chickie loaded the man into the rear of the police car with that weapon still strapped to his ankle, she may have taken her next ride in a hearse. I’ve actually seen crooks transported to the jail still carrying weapons. Luckily, no one was hurt.
Searching people for weapons is no time to be shy. You need to touch and feel every single inch of their body. The officer’s hand must find its way into every crevice and fold. Bad guys can get very creative when concealing weapons.
Ben receives a frantic call from the woman with the stalker/ex-boyfriend. She says the guy is there, so Ben calls for back up and speeds over to her house. He arrives and tried to get into the house by breaking the glass in the front door with his arm. I can say from experience that this isn’t a good move. I did the same thing once during the service of a search warrant. The command was given to GO! and I kicked the front door while other officers were doing the same to the back entrance. My door wouldn’t budge and I heard people inside scrambling around (I learned a few minutes later that the door was barricaded with a steel bar), so I broke the glass in a side window with my elbow. Well, a large piece of glass fell from the top of the window and pierced my wrist, severing a nerve. Guess what? I still have nerve damage in that hand today.
Anyway, Ben tosses a chair through a window and goes inside, pulls the guy off the woman, and then uses his fists to beat the attacker to a pulp. Back up arrives, pulls Ben off the guy, and handcuffs the stalker. But it’s too late, the woman is dead. Filled with anger and adrenaline, Ben stands up and punches the handcuffed man a couple more times, a definite no no for a cop. You never hit someone in handcuffs. In fact, cops shouldn’t strike anyone unless that’s the only means of gaining control of an unruly suspect.
Now Ben’s concerned about losing his cool. He worries about why he struck a handcuffed man. He lost his temper because he allowed the situation to become personal. Cooper delivers some excellent advice, telling Ben that a cop’s world isn’t all black and white, and that police officers live in a world of gray. Hmm…doesn’t that sound familiar? How many times have I said those very words on this blog and in my presentations?
Cops can’t save everyone. That’s a phrase that really stood out in this show, and it’s a phrase that rings true in the real world. But they try. And they try, and they try, and they try. It’s what they do, and you’re why they do it.
Again, Southland is can’t miss TV for those of you who’re seeking realistic police action.